Spotlight: Francis Marion Bates

Mr. F. M. Bates

In 1879 the lifeless body of Mr. F. M. Bates was found in a ditch on Flemington road. His jewellery was missing and witnesses reported that he was being followed by a man just prior. This man, it was suggested, was none other than the infamous A. G. Scott, alias Captain Moonlite.

moonlite mugshot
Andrew Scott’s prison mugshot circa his time in Ballarat

Bates was an American Civil War veteran who became a professional actor, an occupation that he maintained when he made the big move from California with his wife and daughter to Melbourne. His acting took him all through the colonies until he reached the end of the road in a ditch with his valuables all missing. Witnesses pointed to the infamous Captain Moonlite as the culprit as the man they had seen in proximity to Bates that night had resembled Scott’s mugshot. When Scott was questioned however there was no significant evidence to connect him to the death, which was deemed the result of natural causes.

batesstub1
The Riverine Grazier, 23/07/1879

The fact that Scott was blamed for Bates’ death and the subsequent removal of his valuables was a sore point for the remainder of his life. Having been incorrectly implicated in a failed prison escape not long beforehand and before that having his lecture tour shut down by police who considered his views on prison reform to be objectionable, Scott was at his wit’s end and decided to make the move to New South Wales where he was an unknown. His partner Jim Nesbitt was determined to join him as were Thomas Williams, his stage hand, and Gus Wernicke, a neglected youth in search of a father-figure who Scott had taken in. As the troupe headed north the police were watching their every move and following every step, waiting for Scott to slip up. As Scott became more and more desperate to get away from the harassment he began to entertain thoughts that would result in mayhem and misery in only a few short months.

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The Evening News, 19/06/1879

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